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May 25, 2005

BehindTheMedspeak: Gold nanoparticles may simplify cancer detection

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A report published in the May 11 edition of the journal Nano Letters by Mostafa El–Sayed and colleagues from the Laser Dynamics Laboratory at Georgia Tech suggests a powerful new approach to cancer surveillance.

Many cancer cells have a protein known as Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) all over their surface; healthy cells typically do not express this protein as strongly.

The investigators bound gold nanoparticles to an antibody for EGFR and were then able to get the nanoparticles to preferentially attach themselves to cancer cells.

El Sayed said, "If you add this conjugated nanoparticle solution to healthy cells and cancerous cells and you look at the image, you can tell with a simple microscope that the whole cancer cell is shining. The healthy cell doesn't bind to the nanoparticles specifically. If you see a well–defined cell glowing, that's cancer."

The picture leading this post shows two cancer cells outlined by bound gold nanoparticles.

The photo below shows a field of noncancerous cells, to which the nanoparticles do not adhere nearly as well due to a much lower concentration of EGFR in normal cells.

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What makes this new technique so promising is that it doesn't require high–powered microscopes or lasers to view the results: all it takes is a simple microscope and white light — even a flashlight will work.

A second benefit is that the results are instantaneous.

Said El–Sayed, "If you take cells from a cancer–stricken tissue and spray them with these gold nanoparticles you can see the results immediately. The scattering is so strong that you can detect a single particle."

Translation: even a single cancer cell will light up.

Yet another advantage is that the technique is very simple and inexpensive to use.

Here's a link to the abstract of the journal article.

May 25, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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